Dr. Dawn Wright, Oregon State
National Geographic/NOAA Classroom Exploration of the Oceans Virtual Teacher & Educator Workshop, July 28-August 1, 2003
Aloha! Talofa! Greetings! During this extensive Classroom Exploration of the Oceans, you've no doubt learned quite a bit about coral reef ecology, as well as the challenges and practices of coral reef conservation and management. And I understand that there is more great information to come. During this keynote, I'm pleased to share some information about 2 critical mapping technologies that support coral reef conservation and management: multibeam surveying to derive the bathymetry (i.e., submarine topography) of coral reef environments, and geographic information systems (GISs) that can be used to map and integrate bathymetry with many other kinds of scientific and resource management data for the purposes of improved data interpretation, and managerial decision making. You've had a great introduction to multibeam mapping from Dr. Margo Edwards, but I'll spend some time briefly reviewing some additional basics, introducing the basics of GIS, and then sharing some preliminary results from recent shallow-water multibeam bathymetric surveys and GIS work conducted in 2001 and 2002 to support of the Fagatele (FOHNG-ah-tehleh) Bay National Marine Sanctuary in American Samoa.
Panoramic digital photo mosaic showing Tutuila, American Samoa in the distance.
Photos taken at sea aboard the R/V Roger Revelle by Stassia Samuels, National Park of American Samoa, March 2002
As you may already know, there are currently thirteen sites in the U.S. National Marine Sanctuary System that protect over 18,000 square miles of American coastal waters. Coral reefs are a particular concern at several of these sites, as reefs are now recognized as being among the most diverse and valuable ecosystems on earth, as well as the most endangered. In the southwestern Pacific lies the small archipelago of American Samoa. As opposed to the independent nation of Samoa directly to the west, it is the only U.S. territory south of the equator and is composed of five volcanic islands (from west to east: Tutuila, Anunu, Ofu, Olosega, and Ta'u), two small coral atolls, (Rose and Swain islands), and a recently-discovered submerged volcano named Vailulu'u (Hart et al., 2000). The total area of these islands is roughly 76 sq. mi. (about the size of Washington, DC) and has a population (except for Vailulu'u of course!) of approximately 64,000 people. Tutuila is 54 sq. mi. in area and contains over 90% of the territory's population.
American Samoa is home to many natural treasures, among them the Fagatele Bay National Marine Sanctuary (FBNMS), the smallest, remotest, and least explored of the 13 sites within the U.S. National Marine Sanctuary System, and the only true tropical coral reef among the thirteen sites. The FBNMS is located at the southwest corner of the island of Tutuila. The bay is an ancient flooded volcano, with a thriving coral and calcareous algal reef community that is rapidly recovering from an infestation of crown-of-thorns starfish that devastated the corals in the late 1970s, as well as the effects of 2 hurricanes in the early 1990s (Birkeland, et. al., 1987). Although much of the coral cover has been destroyed, fish populations still thrive, particularly surgeonfish, damselfish and angelfish (Craig, 1998; Akins, 1999). In addition, the steep slopes surrounding the bay contain some of the rarest paleo-tropical rainforests in the U.S. (http://www.fbnms.nos.noaa.gov). One of the greatest threats currently facing Fagatele Bay, as well as much of Samoa's coastal waters, is the rapid depletion of fish stocks by the illegal use of gill netting, spearfishing, poison and dynamite (Sauafea, 2002). In addition, the sanctuary staff is concerned about the potential for algal blooms with subsequent incidents of hypoxia (extremely low dissolved oxygen in the water) due to unchecked sewage outflow "upstream" from the bay.
Various agencies within the territory are responsible for coastal and ocean resource management, community-based wetlands management, land use permitting, coral reef protection and monitoring, and public outreach and education. Chief among various pressing environmental issues are overfishing, declining coastal water quality, oil spills and oil pollution (especially with the heavy traffic of commercial fishing vessels), mangrove habitat degradation, and assessment of fisheries stocks, and threats to coral reef ecosystems due to non-point source pollution, hurricanes, and crown-of-thorns starfish invasions. More information may be found at the American Samoa Goverment's Department of Commerce Environment Division web site, www.amsamoa.com/czm.htm.
In late 1990s NOAA launched a major intiative to explore, document, and provide critical scientific data for the National Marine Sanctuary System, with the goal of developing a strategy for the restoration and conservation of the nation's marine resources. One of the major catalysts behind this effort was the 5-year Sustainable Seas Expeditions (SSE; sustainableseas.noaa.gov), led by famed marine biologist and National Geographic Explorer-in- Residence Dr. Sylvia Earle and former National Marine Sanctuary program director Francesca Cava. SSE used new technologies, including their 1-personed submersible DeepWorker, to pioneer the first explorations of the sanctuaries.
Logistics and scheduling prevented a visit to the FBNMS by a NOAA research vessel with the DeepWorker submersible, but, as an SSE collaborator, I teamed with FBNMS manager Nancy Daschbach, and University of South Florida (USF) scientists David Naar and Brian Donahue, to undertake successful bathymetric surveys and the initiation of a FBNMS GIS in April and May of 2001. Until recently the sanctuary, as well as the national park were largely unexplored below depths of ~30 m (on into the twilight zone of ocean depths where light begins to fade, and deeper, with no prior bathymetric base map in existence and no comprehensive documentation of undersea flora, fauna, and habitat. The team used a Kongsberg-Simrad EM 3000 portable multibeam bathymetric mapping system, attached to the bow of a 30-foot survey boat loaned by the Department of Marine & Wildlife Resources (DMWR) of the America Samoa Government. Before providing further details, lets jump into a basic review of technologies.
A "Crash Course" in Ocean Floor Mapping and GIS!
You know now from Dr. Margo Edwards keynote that we have made more progress mapping the neighboring planets than we have our own "seven seas! Indeed, we know more about the dark side of the moon and the topography of Venus and Mars than we do of our ocean floors (or "seafloor" or "seabed"). When NASA announced that its high-profile Shuttle Ray Topography Mission had mapped eighty percent of the earth's surface, they neglected to mention that they had skipped the parts that are underwater (71% percent of the globe's actual surface area) which remained impervious to the Shuttle's spectacular remote sensors.
When viewed from space, the Earth appears strikingly as a planet of water, with 71% of it surface covered by a fluid envelope averaging 5000 m in depth. This envelope is a vast inner space, which, along with the underlying ocean floor, is still only dimly perceived by humans. What can be perceived of the water column and ocean floor must be done mostly with the aid of sound, as sound waves are transmitted both farther and faster through seawater than electromagnetic energy. In order to "see" the ocean floor for instance, sound is essential not only for determining depth to the bottom, but for detecting varying properties of the bottom. In a typical multibeam bathymetric mapping system, multiple pulses of sound are released and form beams on their way down to the ocean floor. The sound reflects back after striking an object on the ocean floor Depths are commonly measured by timing the two-way travel time of a sound pulse from ocean bottom back to the ship. As the speed of sound in seawater varies linearly with temperature, pressure, and salinity, the conversion of travel time to depth must take this into account. In addition, the intensity of this reflection, or backscatter, can be used to resolve the shapes of objects or the character of the bottom (e.g., heavily sedimented and thus non-reflective or glassy with fresh lava flows and thus extremely reflective).
The resulting maps from this system are perfect fodder for GIS, both for display and interpretation of bathymetric data sets but also for integration, comparison, and analysis with other kinds of data (biological data on coral reef species, temperature and chemistry of the water column above the ocean floor, and data on bottom currents, as well as boundaries delineating sanctuary limits, no-take zones, etc.; Figure 6). The high cost of acquiring these data often singularly justifies the development of dedicated GISs for the integration of these data. And by using GIS, the synergy of different types of data provides oceanographers with more information and insight than could be obtained by considering each type of data separately.
So what is GIS? A GIS is basically a computerized mapping and database system that helps to integrate and analyze data of various types. With GIS, not only do you have the map itself, you also have important information about the features on the map. GIS maps are thus often referred to now as "smart" maps because you have a whole database of information and a powerful suite and statistical and mathematical analysis tools "magically" connected to the points, lines, areas, and surfaces that you would normally see on a paper map. The data in GIS are like layers in a sandwich, except that the layers represent information about a geographical place to give you a better understanding of that place. The "meat", for instance, might be the ocean floor; the lettuce, the types and properties of various kinds of corals; the cheese, the temperature or salinity of the water, etc.. We can keep adding layers to the system such as directions of bottom currents, or locations of shipwrecks. And we may see changes in these layers through time. GIS was first heavily used by scientists in the forestry, civil engineering, and conservation biology communities for various terrestrial applications. It is now beginning to make a quite a splash in the field of oceanography as well. The integration of multidisciplinary data gathered from many different kinds of vehicles or instruments is of great importance in oceanography, where geologists, chemists, biologists and physicists must often work together in order to understand the "big picture" of ocean processes.
As agencies and institutes such as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Marine Sanctuary Program and National Ocean Service, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), and the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute adopt GIS, its becoming clear that not only are the needs of basic science and exploration being served, but those of ocean protection, preservation, and management as well. Exponential improvements in the speed and capacities of computer hard- and software, an accompanying drop in prices, and the increased availability of skilled practitioners in GIS are making implementation possible where costs have been, until very recently, prohibitive. Data, too, is easier to obtain via the Internet, the World Wide Web, and numerous public sources of spatial information, such as the National Geophysical Data Center, the NASA-funded Distributed Oceanographic Data System (DODS), the EarthExplorer of the USGS, and the Federal Geographic Data Committee's National Geospatial Data Clearinghouse. I'd be happy to provide links and explanations for these sources during our discussion. And finally, although the realization of true 3-dimensionality remains a challenge (particularly in the marine/coastal realm where there are dissimilarities between the horizontal and vertical dimensions), the mapping of our oceans continues to be an area of research that pushes the boundaries of a new field called geographic information science, compelling significant attention from funding agencies such as the National Science Foundation and the NOAA Office of High Performance Computing and Communications.
There are many additional sites that I can
point you to regarding ocean floor mapping and GIS, but for now you may really
enjoy an excellent piece written by Dr. Robert Aguirre for NOAA's new Ocean
NOAA Marine GIS Overview
Also: The "Pirates' Pick of Seafloor Mapping and GIS Links from Davey Jones' Locker
Two recent books on these subjects are:
Marine and Coastal Geographical Information Systems
Undersea with GIS, from which a good portion of this keynote has been drawn.
Back to American Samoa: Coral Reefs... and Shipwrecks Too!
And now I'd like to return our discussion to our survey sites in American Samoa. So In 2 weeks of surveying, full bathymetric coverage was obtained around selected sites off the main island of Tutuila, American Samoa: the FBNMS in the southwest, part of the National Park along the north shore, Pago Pago harbor and Taema Bank to the south, and Faga'itua Bay in the southeast . Post-processing steps after the surveys were completed included the "cleaning" of the navigation to delete erroneous positions, then tidal corrections were applied to the depth soundings using NOAA, verified downloaded tide data available for the study area. ASCII formatted x-y-z depth data were then gridded using MB-System, a public-domain suite of software tools for processing and display of swath sonar data. Initial maps made from the grids with Generic Mapping Tools (GMT) revealed many important features such as reef terraces, erosional remnants, volcanic edifices, and blocks of reef debris (below). Mapping of the Pago Pago harbor also captured in striking detail the wreckage of the USS Chehalis, a WWII oil and gas tanker that exploded and sank in the harbor in 1949, and may be still be a source of water pollution (below).
Index map of Tutuila, American Samoa with pink circles showing the locations of recent multibeam bathymetric surveys around the island. Inset photograph at lower left is an aerial shot of the FBNMS (photo courtesy of the FBNMS, www.fbnms.nos.noaa.gov). Codes for other survey areas: NP = National park of American Samoa (total area of submerged national park offshore Tutuila is ~5 sq. km); PPH = Pago Pago Harbor; TB = Taema Bank; FB = Faga'itua Bay. Map is based on a U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) 10-m digital elevation model (DEM) provided by A. Graves of Nuna Technologies, American Samoa.
Histogram equalized, shaded relief bathymetric map of Taema Bank, a drowned coral reef terrace located ~3 km off the south central coast of Tutuila.
Color-shaded, sun-illuminated bathymetric map featuring the wreck of the USS Chehalis in Pago Pago Harbor (cartography by B. Donahue). Inset photo of a ship in the same class as the USS Chehalis courtesy of the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration.
In order to make all data sets in the FBNMS GIS accessible, not only to the sanctuary staff and their collaborators in American Samoa, but to collaborators throughout Oceania and the U.S., a web clearinghouse was built ((dusk.geo.orst.edu/djl/samoa), providing links to all of the GIS data and metadata, and to bathymetric grids in GMT format for non-GIS users, various maps, photographic images, and graphics. All GIS data are provided as ArcInfo export interchange files (i.e., *.e00 files), which may be imported into ArcInfo, ArcView, or ArcExplorer.
"Ground-truthing" of bathymetric surveys with photography and videography will be an ongoing endeavor. For example, the new bathymetry of the FBNMS helped to guide the location of a deep-diving mission to the sanctuary on May 16, 2001 . University of Hawaii researcher Richard Pyle used rebreather technology to work underwater for over 3.5 hours (a block of time significantly longer than traditional SCUBA), and collected videotape of coral reef biota and habitats up to a maximum depth of 113 m. Although the diving mission was cut short by poor weather, twelve completely new species of fish were observed in the bay, including seventeen species that had never before been observed in American Samoa, and several species that were previously unknown to the waters of Fagatele Bay (see Richard Pyle's Coral Reef Twilight Zone Site for rebreather results and images).
A fortuitous occurrence at the time of bathymetric surveying and GIS activities for the FBNMS was the visit of a NOAA Coastal Services Center delegation to involve American Samoa in a new Pacific Islands GIS initiative. The initiative, begun in April of 2001, is a multiyear initiative to build sustainable spatial data capacity within the coastal resource management programs of Hawaii, and the U.S. territories of American Samoa, Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, and to leverage other related federal activities in the western Pacific. A major goal is to develop full, integrated GIS projects and to keep this momentum going, especially in the wake of government contractors who may do important GIS work but then must leave the territory. As such, the initiative provides a 2-year assistantship through the Environmental Careers Organization (ECO) for an individual with a professional degree and excellent GIS and communication skills, to help meet the territory's GIS needs, particularly through the local Coastal Zone Management Program. An intern was placed in American Samoa in October 2001, and provided with hardware, ESRI ArcView and ArcInfo software and extensions, and GPS units. The initiative has also provided training to the territory in information technology, introductory and intermediate ArcView, GPS, and metadata.
Of major significance also was the establishment in 2001 of an American Samoa GIS User Group (Table 1), which has facilitated management of several of the aforementioned environnmental issues and responsibilities. Led by the American Samoa Government's Department of Commerce and comprised of ~30 representatives from the various government agencies, as well as the American Samoa Community College, the group performs a variety of important digital mapping and spatial analysis tasks, including: inventory and organization of existing data; development of a land information system; wetlands delineation maps for Tutuila; and the use of satellite imagery to update territory base maps.
Table 1. Agencies with interest or current participation in the American Samoa GIS User Group
American Samoa Coastal Zone Management Program
American Samoa Community College
American Samoa Government, Department of Commerce
American Samoa Government, Department of Marine and Wildlife Resources
American Samoa Government, Department of Public Works
American Samoa Historic Preservation Office
American Samoa Power Authority
Fagatele Bay National Marine Sanctuary
National Park of American Samoa
Natural Resources Conservation Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, American Samoa
The Nature Conservancy, American Samoa
U.S. Enviromental Protection Agency, American Samoa
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, American Samoa
U.S. Forest Service, American Samoa
U.S. Geological Survey, American Samoa
The inception of the user group was serendipitously coincident with recent bathymetric surveying around the island, leading further to the establishment of the FBNMS GIS, as well as renewed interest in the territory by NOAA and the USGS in connection with the pressing need to now to monitor and protect Pacific coral reefs (Anderson, 1999; U.S. Coral Reef Task Force, 2000).
In March of 2002 SSE led a 1-week SCUBA diving, photography, fish count and public outreach mission to American Samoa. A team consisting of Sylvia Earle (SSE), Kip Evans (SSE), Gale Mead (SSE), Brian Donahue (USF), Laddie Akins (Reef Environmental Education Foundation, REEF), and Nancy Daschbach, made 60 dives were to the sanctuary and several other site around Tutuila, including an extensive collection of underwater video and still images. Species observed and documented included 30-50 species of corals, 4 different shark species, over 200 fish species, and 20 invertebrate species. It is hoped that future activities may be georeferenced for incorporation into GIS (i.e., more ground-truth).
Another activity that took place during the SSE mission was a 1-day multibeam bathymetric mapping cruise aboard the R/V Revelle that, along with other multibeam data mined from archives at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, enabled complete coverage of the mid- to deeper water flanks of Tutuila . These new data will supplement the aforementioned shallow water surveys that were incorporated into the FBNMS GIS in 2001. During the Revelle cruise, the entire north flank of Tutuila and several deepwater multibeam data gaps along the southern flank were mapped with the Kongsberg-Simrad hull-mounted EM120 system, revealing at least 6 new volcanoes off of the northern flank, as well as the shape of banks along the south flank . Many of these banks are inaccurately located on nautical charts and have never been fully mapped with multibeam bathymetry.
Photo (courtesy of Scripps Instituion of Oceanography) of the 273-foot R/V Roger Revelle used for the deepwater multibeam bathymetric survey around Tutuila in March 2002.
Shipboard science party (except for the little dude on his mom's lap) for the Tutuila bathymetric survey.
Bathymetry data are still being post-processed, and final maps and GIS grids will be incorporated into the FBNMS and made available on the web in late 2003.
Additional shallow-water surveys were conducted in November, 2002. In addition to bathymetry that is currently being processed, what will is also important is the processing of any available backscatter imagery (representing the strength of the return signal rather than just the traveltime), so that seafloor classification and habitat maps may be prepared for depths of 30 m and greater. My students are currently integrating the bathymetry with high-resolution 1- and 4-m IKONOS satellite imagery recently obtained from NOAA through the Coral Reef Task Force Initiative. These maps will be the basis for ongoing studies in the sanctuary and the park that will include selection of sites for habitat class designation and protection (e.g., no-take marine protected areas), development of sanctuary program monitoring protocols, and developing a general understanding species composition and abundance. Other ongoing initiatives include:
It has been very encouraging to witness the explosion of bathymetric mapping and GIS activity in American Samoa, and this review has in no way been exhaustive. The concept of a "territory-wide" GIS for American Samoa is still developing, and in its current decentralized state, even with the formulation of a user group, a continual challenge will be to get data into the hands of resource managers and community activists, along with the tools and understanding of their usage that will allow them to use the data for effective decision-making. And how to do this while preventing duplication of efforts and services, and avoiding competition for the small number of highly-trained GIS personnel in the territory? One approach may be to take advantage of a student labor pool, both on and off-island, especially via a mentorship or apprenticeship program, supported by academic credits and training. The FBNMS has already initiated this, having provided travel support for OSU students to help with mapping and GIS coordination on Tutuila. Indeed, it has been argued by Oberlin (1996) that "the infrastructure most needed to support the information era is financial, social, and political, not technical."
Now, a primary question for YOU in the "audience" is, given the data that are now available for the FBNMS, what specific coral reef management or research questions might you ask and tackle with a GIS? I hope that we can discuss this at length during the workshop, along with any other questions or comments that you might have. And some of you may be interested in preparing an annotated bibliography of Internet resources related to this.
To get you started, Bridgewater (1993) and Aspinall (1995) note that combining a landscape ecology approach (i.e., data analysis guided by purposeful ecological objectives) with a GIS is desirable because it allows for the study of structure, function and change within coral reef systems, while attempting to manage the many spatial and temporal scales. For the April-May 2001 survey, a primary long-term objective is analyze physical factors important to coral reef development in FBNMS, such as habitat classification, submarine aspect, submarine slope, and bottom substrate relief, along with several community descriptors, via GIS query, spatial correlation tests, and "buffer analysis" (I'd be happy to explain these in more detail during our discussion). Treml (1999) was successful with this approach in analyzing coral reef community ecology on St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands using factors such as current regime, substrate characteristics, coastal topography, bay geometry, watershed size, sedimentation, tropical storm impact, bathymetry, biodiversity, evenness biota distribution, and algae cover.
Thanks for reading this far, and have a wonderful time during the remainder of the CEO workshop!
Many thanks to Nancy Daschbach, manager of the Fagatele Bay National Marine Sanctuary with whom the author originally made contact in order to start a wide range of collaborations. Brian Donahue and Dave Naar of the University of South Florida Center for Coastal Ocean Mapping have provided excellent multibeam mapping and data processing support. Ken Crouse of OSU Geosciences is thanked for tireless computer technical support in rebuilding GIS files and software in American Samoa during the summer of 2001. Mark Hayward of the American Samoa Government Department of Commerce and Allison Graves of Nuna Technologies and the National Park of American Samoa have been invaluable in providing data and GIS assistance, and are thanked also for fruitful discussions. Allison and Kevin Cronk, the NOAA Pacific Island GIS intern for American Samoa, have worked tireless on procedures for converting from American Samoa 1962 Datum, stateplane coordinates to North American Datum, UTM coordinates. Cindy Fowler and Lori Cary-Kothera are thanked for their leadership of the Pacific Island GIS intern program for American Samoa. Jennifer Aicher, Dave Kulberg, Champion Matu'u, and Florence Lutu (American Samoa Community College), Kevin Cronk (American Samoa Government), and Allison Graves and Stassia Samuels (National Park of American Samoa) are thanked for excellent watchstanding at sea. And finally, Tony Beecham of the American Samoa Department of Marine and Wildlife Resources is thanked for general support and good humor. The author was supported by National Science Foundation (NSF) grant OCE/EHR-0074635, with additional travel funds provided by the Fagatele Bay National Marine Sanctuary. Supplemental ship time for the R/V Roger Revelle in order to complete the deepwater multibeam survey around Tutuila was funded by grants NSF-OCE-0002312 to D. Naar, NOAA-408BNC101000 to D. Wright, and NSF-OCE-0074635 to D. Wright.
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Green, A.L., C.E. Birkeland, and R.H. Randall, 1999. Twenty years of disturbance and change in Fagatele Bay National Marine Sanctuary, American Samoa, Pacific Science, 53(4): 376-400.
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Hart, S.R., H. Staudigel, A.A.P. Koppers, J. Blusztajn, E.T. Baker, R. Workman, M. Jackson, E. Hauri, M. Kurz, K. Sims, D.J. Fornari, A. Saal and S. Lyons, 2000. Vailulu'u undersea volcano: The new Samoa, Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems, 1: Paper number 2000GC000108.
Koenig, C., F. Coleman, G. Fitzhugh, C. Gledhill, et al., in press, 2001. Marine reserves for the protection of critical shelf-edge spawning habitat for economically important reef-fish. Bulletin of Marine Science.
Oberlin, J.L., 1996. The financial mythology of information technology: Developing a new game plan, CAUSE/EFFECT (now EDUCAUSE Quaterly ), 19(1), 21-29, online at www.educause.edu/ir/library/text/CEM9616.txt.
Saufea, F. S., 2002. Community-based fisheries management in American Samoa, Proceedings of the Fifth Regional Symposim, PACON 2001, Burlingame, California.
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Treml, E., 1999. Fringing Reef Framework Development and Maintenance of Coral Assemblages along St. John's South Shore: A Geographic Information System (GIS) Analysis, Master's thesis, University of Charleston, Charleston, South Carolina.
U.S. Coral Reef Task Force, 2000. National Action Plan for Coral Reef Conservation, Washington, DC, U.S. Department of the Interior, online at CoralReef.gov/doc.cfm.
Wright, D.J., B.T. Donahue, and D.F. Naar, 2002. Seafloor mapping and GIS coordination at America's remotest national marine sanctuary (American Samoa), in Wright, D.J. (ed.), Undersea with GIS, Redlands, CA, ESRI Press, 33-63.
Panoramic digital photo mosaic from aboard the R/V Roger Revelle by Stassia Samuels, National Park of American Samoa, March 2002